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Ezra, chap. 1. ver. 3.
we have both the will and the deed. Take for example that general proclamation in the book of Ezra, "Whatever1 Jew would, might be free." So said the king that had power to make them free; "Who is there among you of all his people, his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem which is in Judah, and build the house of the God of Israel." Then we read: "Thenm rose up the chief of the fathers of Judah and Benjamin, and the priest, and the Levites, with all them whose Spirit God had raised up to go up." Observe here, though the proclamation were general, yet the raising up of the will was from the Spirit of the Lord. We must not by any means take our will for a ground: the will cometh from God; but if thou hast the will, thou hast a warrant. Whoever will, let him take the water of life freely without covenanting: say not, if thou hadst but a measure of faith, and such a measure of humiliation; for that were to compound with Christ away with that; "whosoever will, let him come." Christ keeps open house; "Whosoever will, let him come whosoever comes to him, he will in no wise cast out." If thou hast a heart to come to him, he hath a willing heart to receive thee; as it was with the prodigal son, the Father stays not till he comes to him, but runs to meet him: he is swift to shew mercy, and to meet us, though we come slowly on towards him. But this is not all, there is a second gracious word that is preached to a man, not yet in the state of grace. A man that keeps open house, he seldom invites any particularly; but if he come, he shall be welcome. Christ, he keeps open house; but some are so fearful, and so modest, that unless they have a special invitation, they are ashamed to come to Christ; they reason thus: If my case were an ordinary man's, I should come; but I am so vile and wretched, that I am ashamed to come; my sins have been so many, heavy, that I am not able to bear so great a weight; they are more in number than the hairs of my head; and
m Ibid. ver. 5.
yet farther, alas they are crying ones too. But hearken, here is a second word; dost thou think thy case more heavy, because thou art out of measure sinful. Lo, it pleaseth God to send thee a special invitation, who findest thyself discouraged with the great bulk and burden of thy sins. Though all apply it not to this use; "Come unto me all you that labour, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." You, of all others, are they that Christ looks for. Those that can walk bolt upright in their sins, that desire to live and die in them, they will not look upon me, and I will not look upon them; they scorn me, and I scorn them: but you, that are heavy laden, and feel the burden of your sins, are invited by Christ. Let not Satan then cozen you of the comfort of this word; that which Christ makes the latch to open the door to let himself in, we do usually by our foolishness make the bolt to shut him out. Let thy wound be never so great, thou hast a warrant to come, and be cured: be of good comfort then, as it was said to blind Bartimeus, so it is to thee; "LoP, he calleth thee." When Christ bids thee come, and gives thee his word, that he will heal thee, come, let not the Devil, or thy corruptions hinder thee, or make thee stay back; haste thee to this city of refuge, he hath engaged his word for thee, and he will ease thee. But now, after all these there is a
Third word, that though Christ keeps open house, so that who will, may freely come; and though he sends special invitations to them that are most bashful, because their case is extraordinary: what do you think now, that Christ will come with his soldiers, and destroy those that do not come in? He might do it, when he is so free, and invites thee, and thou turnest it back again into his hand : but yet here is another word of comfort, Christ doth not only send a messenger to invite thee, who hast no goodness in thee, but he falls to beseeching and entreating thee; and that is a third word, whereby faith is wrought
Matt. chap. 11. ver. 28.
P Mark, chap. 10. ver. 49.
in an unbeliever; "Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us;" observe the place, "We pray you in Christ's stead be reconciled unto God." This is the most admirable word that ever could be spoken unto a sinner. Alas! thou mayest say, I am afraid that God will not be friends with me; why? he would have thee to be friends with him: do not then, with the papists, make such an austere God, as though he might not be spoken unto, as though thou mightest not presume thyself, but must make friends unto him; "We" have not an high priest that is not touched with our infirmities." Will the papists tell me, I am bold if I go to God, or lay hands on Christ? I am not more bold than welcome; "Let us go with boldness to the throne of grace." We are commanded to it. Do not think but that he had bowels to weep over Jerusalem, and he carried the same into heaven; when thou liest groaning before him, he will not spurn thee. We pray you and beseech you to be friends; therefore in this case make no doubt, it is God's good pleasure to entreat thee, and therefore thou hast warrant enough. Christ wept over Jerusalem, and he is as ready to embrace thee. You have now three words to make a man of an unbeliever, a believer: is there, or can there be more than these; open house-keeping, special invitations, entreaties and beseechings? Yet there is more than all this; which if thou hast not a heart of stone, it will make thee believe, or make thee rue it. And that is,
4. When God seeth all these things will not work with us, but we are slow of heart to believe, then he quickens us; and there comes a word of command. God chargeth, and commands thee to come; and then if thou breakest his command, be it to thy peril. It is the greatest sin, that can be committed. Thou wilt not draw near to God, because thou art a sinner; thou now committest a greater sin, than before, thou returnest back Christ unto God,
12 Cor. chap. 5. ver. 10. Heb. chap. 4. ver. 16.
Heb. chap. 4. ver. 15.
thou biddest him take his commodity into his hand again, thou wilt not believe: and this is an heinous crime; "And when the Spirit shall come, it shall reprove the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment; of sin, because they believe not in me." This is that great sin he shall convince the world of, "because they believe not in him. Of all sins, this was the most notorious; this makes us keep all other sins in possession: it is not only one particular sin, but it fastens all other sins upon us, be they never so many. When faith comes, it will out them, but till then they remain in thee; where there is no commandment, there is no sin. How could it be a sin in not believing, if I were not commanded so to do: but you shall hear more than so. When the apostle speaks of excluding rejoicing under the law; "Where" is boasting, then, saith he? it is excluded: By what law, by the law of works? No, but by the law of faith" there is a law of works, and a law of faith. God doth not only give thee leave to come, and take him, and draw near unto him, but he commands thee; there is a law by the breach of that law of faith thou art made guilty of a high sin. There is a full testimony of this; "And this is the commandment, that we should believe in the name of his son Jesus Christ." If a man should ask, may I love my neighbour? would you not think him a fool? because he must do it, he is commanded. So should a poor soul come, and say to me, may I believe? thou fool, thou must believe. God hath laid a command upon thee, it is not left to thy choice: the same commandment that bids thee love thy brother, bids thee to believe on Christ. To entreaty is added God's command; and therefore, if thou shalt argue, what warrant have I to believe? Why, God enjoins it thee, and commands it. As the impotent man said, so mayest thou: "He that healed me, said unto me, take up thy bed, and walk." This is
John, chap. 16. ver. 8, 9. * 1 John, chap. 3. ver. 23.
"Rom. chap. 3. ver. 37.
the very key of the Gospel, and this is the way to turn it right. When being thus clean naked, we have as it were a cable put in our hands, to draw ourselves out of this flesh and blood.
Mark, chap. 16. ver. 16.
a Psalm 78. ver. 22.
5. The last thing is, if keeping open house, special invitations, entreaties and commands will not serve the turn, then Christ waxeth angry; what, to be scorned, when he proffered mercy, and as it were, invite all sorts, and compel them to come in by his preachers, and by a peremptory command? Then he falls a threatening; "We are not of those which draw back unto perdition;" if thou wilt not come upon this command, thou shalt be damned; "Hey that believeth not, shall be damned." Christ commands them to go into the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature, unto every soul this Gospel which I speak. If you will not hear, and believe; if you will not take God at his word, you shall be damned; "Hez that believeth not, shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him." Here is an iron scourge to drive thee, thou that art so slow of heart to believe. In Psalm LXXVIII. where is set down God's mercy unto the Israelites: afterwards comes one plague upon another; it is said, "They believed not in God, and trusted not in his salvation." A like passage to this out of the ninety-fifth Psalm, is applied, in Hebrews, chap. III. ver. 2. to unbelievers. And the reason of God's wrath mentioned in the seventy-eighth Psalm, is said to have been the unbelief of the people; "The Lord heard this, and was wrath; a fire was kindled against Jacob, and against Israel." Why was this? because they believed not in him, because they trusted not in his salvation. Nothing will more provoke God to anger, than when he is liberal and gracious, and we are straitened in ourselves, harden our hearts, and not trust him: never forget this sermon, while you live; this is the net that Christ hath to draw you out of the world..
John, chap. 3. ver. 36.